The Washington State Liquor Control Board (WSLCB) has adopted a rule change that forbids the consumption of marijuana in any form at any premises licensed to sell alcohol.
The new rule goes into effect in 30 days, meaning that by mid-January, any bar in Washington that allows cannabis use is subject to fines and loss of license. The WSLCB states this rule is necessary to adhere to Initiative 502’s (I-502) rules for public pot smoking.
Members of the board also expressed concern about people smoking pot and drinking alcohol and then driving. A recent study showed that while a pot smoker has slightly less than a 2-to-1 greater crash risk than a sober driver, it also found drinking drivers at over 13-to-1 risk and those who drank and toked had a whopping 23-to-1 risk for crash. Apparently, a 13-to-1 risk is something we target with “drink responsibly” ads, DUI patrols and educational campaigns, but a simple ban will somehow mitigate a 23-to-1 crash risk.
Justin Nordhorn, chief of enforcement for WSLCB, claims that this rule change is not meant to specifically target Frankie’s, the Olympia bar that made international news when it became the first to allow open pot smoking. The owner, Frankie Schnarr, long ago won a legal battle against the state’s anti-smoking codes by making the second floor of his bar a private, members-only club staffed by volunteers. The club now boasts 13,500 members who all pay $10 annual dues.
Once I-502 passed, Frankie opened up the second floor of his bar to pot smokers. During my visit to Frankie’s, I found pot smokers and tobacco smokers, beer drinkers and whiskey drinkers all getting along famously, enjoying the pool tables, video machines, dart boards and carnival games in the huge, well-furnished private club. I spoke to the manager and asked him if he liked serving mellow potheads and he replied, “Yeah, but it’s also seemed to mellow out the drinkers, too.”
Nordhorn insists it’s not just Frankie’s, though, as he’s heard reports from others in WSLCB enforcement who say bars in King County (Seattle region) are allowing patrons to spark up as well.
Thanks to this new rule, Washington firmly establishes the legal drug pecking order: drinkers get public establishments to enjoy their drug in a social atmosphere, smokers are only allowed to get their public fix outdoors far from any windows and entrances, and tokers must be hidden from public view so nobody ever sees them enjoying their nasty habit.
With passage of this rule we see once again how legalization still has a long way to go before tokers have equality with drinkers and smokers. News flash for WSLCB: people have been toking in the parking lot of bars for decades now -- all you’re doing with the ban is forcing the tokers back out there where you can’t monitor how impaired they are. Spend the effort and money on educational campaigns to explain how drinking and toking together lead to far more impairment than either drinking or toking. Besides, it’s not going to be difficult for a place like Frankie’s to make the top floor a separate no-booze, smoking-only private club selling munchies while keeping the liquor bar open downstairs.
"Radical" Russ Belville is the host of "The Russ Belville Show."